Rick Rescorla was many things: a Purple Heart and Silver Star earning soldier, the vice president of security at Morgan Stanley, a singer and even a writer. Among these characteristics, in the end, Rescorla was a husband and a hero.
Rescorla’s wife, Susan Rescorla, was invited by Montclair State University professor Linda Zani Thomas to speak to her Crisis Communication class about the importance of the subject and to discuss her late husband.
Rescorla was a decorated Vietnam war veteran. He heroically fought in the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, where his actions were described in the book he co-authored with Lieutenant General Hal Moore, “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young.”
After the war, Rescorla joined the corporate security team of Dean Witter Reynolds in the offices of the World Trade Center, where he utilized his skills during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. After the attack, Rescorla knew that the World Trade Center would most likely be subject to another attack in the future, and as the second vice president for security at Morgan Stanley, he began to train employees in safety drills and exercises.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Rescorla’s fear came true when the World Trade Center was ultimately attacked.
Paul Cell, the chief of police at Montclair State University, gave a brief introduction as everyone settled in. Chief Cell described the heroic actions of Rescorla, who evacuated 2,700 people out of the World Trade Center by using his crisis communication skills that Thomas teaches in her class.
“Heroes don’t always wear capes. They don’t always wear badges,” Chief Cell said. “Heroes don’t wear anything specific. It’s in your heart.”
Thomas sat down with Susan Rescorla in an Oprah Winfrey Show style interview.
“I’ve talked in front of hundreds of people, but I’m more nervous in front of all of you,” Susan Rescorla said as she greeted the class.
After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Rick knew that there would be another attack, and made sure that his employees were prepared. Susan began to discuss how since her husband came into the world, he was born to lead.
Susan describes this as “synchronicity,” something she continued to mention many times throughout her visit. From his time in the war and with his natural instincts, it was meaningful that Rick Rescorla was there to save 2,700 lives.
It was meaningful that after Sept. 11, Susan would find his emergency evacuation plan in their home, and that it would find its way to Thomas, where she would develop an entire curriculum based on it, and later invite Susan Rescorla to speak in front of her class.
Susan Rescorla then explained how she and Rick Rescorla met and fell in love. She described Rick Rescorla as someone who “loved the human soul.” Susan told the class how her husband would many times find homeless people in his local train station, drive back to his house and return with clothes and supplies to give out.
She also described how President Donald Trump presented her with the Presidential Citizens Medal, honoring her husband’s heroic actions. Even though it was a great honor to be given this award, Susan Rescorla told the class that she knew Rick Rescorla did not save all those on that fateful day so he could receive recognition.
Susan then proceeded to take a few questions from the class, and even sat down with some students to discuss more about her husband.
Grace Manzo, a senior communication and media arts major, expressed her interest in what Susan Rescorla is currently doing.
Susan Rescorla explained that she continues to speak in front of groups about her husband and she has been approached to participate in a new documentary about 9/11 stories. James B. Stewart’s book about the life of Rick Rescorla, “Heart of a Soldier,” was turned into an opera, and is currently being adapted into a film.
Ibn Wallace, a senior majoring in public relations, asked Susan Rescorla how she handles any post traumatic stress.
Susan Rescorla explained how she and first responders who were present on 9/11, use Voices of September 11th to receive support and assistance to help cope with the effects of the tragic event.
When asked if Susan Rescorla ever wanted to tell her husband to stop being the hero, or if she ever disapproved of his vigilante attitude, Susan Rescorla was sure to explain how she never viewed Rick Rescorla as a hero during their time together. His actions and lifestyle were never heroic, but it was always just the right thing to do.
“He just loved the human soul,” Susan Rescorla said.